No BS Blog

TAKING A DIP WITH XCONOMY

November 11, 2014

In late October, our Denver team proudly sponsored the Colorado leg of XCONOMY’s ongoing “Meet the Xconomists” series. The two-night event – split between Boulder and Denver – featured some of the most prominent names in Colorado startups and technology, including notable heads of local software, IT, biotech, cleantech, and venture capital communities. It also had some incredible artichoke dip. Game changing on every level.

For a place like Colorado – where a new startup launches every 72 hours – it’s great to have XCONOMY in our corner. The publications’ 10 regional affiliates do an amazing job of embracing their respective community’s entrepreneurs and startups, and the Meet the Xconomists series serves as its annual ‘thank you’ to the publication’s ambassadors and supporters. For us, sponsoring the session was a no-brainer.

There was an overabundance of elbow rubbing, and it was nice for the team to finally meet, Michael Davidson, Managing Editor of XCONOMY Boulder/Denver. It’s always great to meet a reporter you’ve pitched many, many times for multiple clients. The look on their face when they recognize you’re the one who keeps inundating their inbox is that perfect mix of realization and terror, with just a twinge of “run!”

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But the audience was awesome. The eclectic hodgepodge of a startup scene we call home makes each one-on-one interaction a unique adventure and opportunity to learn something new. Our team’s first interaction with Simple Energy CEO Yoav Lurie – a beloved Barokas client – focused on our mascot Jack giveaways so his newborn daughter – dubbed “the cutest 6-month old in history” – could chew on one.  bpr_bulldog

We also got to connect with one of our newer clients, Final, five super smart guys revolutionizing the broken credit card system. They’re now BFF with their account lead, Rachel, after two hours of schmoozing at the TechStars-hosted Boulder event.

But the pièce de résistance – outside of the aforementioned artichoke dip – was when XCONOMY publisher Jim Edwards – the recipient of not one, but two Jack bulldogs to take home – stood in front of a room full of founders, CEOs and startup extraordinariness to proclaim “if you’re a startup in Colorado, Barokas is your PR agency.”

 After some secret high fives amongst our team, we did a George Costanza walk off, said goodbye to all our new connects and headed back to our laptops, where we proceeded to email Michael Davidson to let him know we had some exciting new potential clients he’ll want to write about.

Thanks to the entire XCONOMY team! Please forward that artichoke dip recipe to jack@barokas.com.

Denver Team

10 Pinch-Worthy Moments from Dreamforce 2014 

October 28, 2014

Call it a San Francisco vs. Seattle ‘thing,’ but if you’d asked me a week ago to name the technology industry’s “biggest,” “most innovative” event, I probably would have said SXSW. After all, Salesforce’s Dreamforce would be too focused on CRM, right? Wrong.

Ask me today – after four days and accumulating over 26 miles of FitBit steps (shameless plug to ServiceSource’s #MyDF14Journey FitBit campaign), networking and dancing with some of the most recognized brands in the technology industry – and I’ll freely admit I was wrong. 

According to WSJ, Dreamforce 2014 was equal parts luau, spring break, rock festival, food drive, and TEDx. With over 145,000 registered attendees representing more than 90 countries – and another five million streaming the event live – Dreamforce spilled out of San Francisco’s Moscone Center into adjacent streets and a half dozen nearby hotels, practically shutting down a portion of downtown San Francisco. 

Here are 10 pinch-worthy moments to prove Salesforce’s 2014 event wasn’t a dream: 

1. Donated: 3 million meals and $9M to children’s hospitals 

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2. @Benioffsshoes: there’s no place like Dreamforce

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3. When SaaSy pics are more popular than ‘Bono’

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Seriously, who needs fake bono? (The lady in the background knows I’m getting punk’d)

4. Two words that don’t need an explanation: Hillary Clinton. 

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Hillary Clinton on potential candidacy in 2016, “I don’t want to make any news today.” Better yet, Hillary’s response to:  time for a woman in the White House? “I will vote for her.” 

5. Three words from Will.I.Am that are still up for debate: #notawatch

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…And the audience whispers to each other…looks like a watch. 

6. Not knowing when to disconnect 

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Don’t worry, if you missed Bruno Mars, Salesforce will “treasure” you, just the “wave” you are. 

7. There can never be enough phone or computer charging ports and stations. 

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8. “Can I scan your badge” is not a pickup line 

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9. Daily happy hour on the expo floor, and finding the first booth to give away beer 

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Yeah, yeah…you scan my badge, just give me the beer”

10. Champagne and pizza in a king-sized bed with your co-worker on a Thursday night 

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Because, well, you both survived 

There’s more than celebrities, music and philanthropic activity that make Dreamforce an event worth watching for businesses and the PR pros that represent them. Over the past few years, Salesforce has quickly become a technology juggernaut, with an estimated $5B in annual revenue. The company’s own technology innovations (like just announced Wave and Lightning) and larger partner ecosystem have significantly expanded over the last 12-18 months, now attracting not only traditional sales, marketing and CRM but also cloud, application development, big data and analytics audiences. 

What are the implications for PR pros? Here’s my two cents: 

First, keep a close eye on Salesforce. If they don’t compete with your client(s) currently, they probably will in the near future at some capacity. Talk to your client(s) about their role in the Salesforce ecosystem – are they a partner, competitor, customer? Do they have a unique POV to insert their company practices and ride the Salesforce ‘wave’? 

Second, start preparing now for Dreamforce 2015. If this year’s event growth is any indication, Dreamforce ’15 is going to be unreal. As with any tradeshow, attracting media/analyst attention away from Salesforce and toward your client(s) is incredibly challenging – after all, it is their party. How should you approach news announcements prior to the event? Does it make sense to announce before, during, or after the event? What’s your outreach strategy for on-site media and analyst relations? How can you connect the dots between what Salesforce is doing and what your client is announcing, or already does? Do you have a marquee customer who’s attending the event? Can you offer a point-of-view that isn’t self-promotional? 

Lastly, get creative. A wise – not old – man always  tells me, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” While this theory is not always true or the best approach for ongoing media and analyst relations, being the loudest and most provocative at tradeshows does have its perks. Outside of product or company news, what other campaigns can you execute – a survey, or contest? This year alone we saw the re-emergence of fake bono, at least half a dozen fully-costumed company mascots including SaaSy and the MuleSoft mule, and last and arguably not least, more booth babes. Maybe next year I’ll win a date with Marc Benioff. 

 

Thanks, 

Lindsey

Proof PR Really Can Turn S**T into Gold

October 15, 2014

austin2This past weekend as I passed under the famous glittering arches into Austin City Limits Music Festival, I could hardly wait to cross epic performances from Pearl Jam, Eminem, and Sam Smith off my bucket list. I was also on a mission to discover hidden artist treasures at ACL, which I uncovered in the soulful voice of James Bay and the John Cash like twang of Parker Millsap. Before I could hit the stages though, I was compelled to check out the crowning glory of ACL that festival planners had been teasing me with for weeks—The Golden Porta-Potty. I’d already seen pictures of the great wonder; even still I had to get up and personal with this pimped out powder room in real life.

 Let’s just say my experience was VIP all the way. First, I arrived to a red carpet where a concierge with a sweet southern accent greeted me. Second, while I was expecting a normal sized facility, this thing was closer to what you’d call a doublewide in Texas. Finally, have you ever been in a Porta-a-John that smelled good—I can now say I have.  Now you’re asking, what the heck does all this potty talk have to do with PR? The answer is everything.

Before I even realized it, the PR geniuses of ACL had managed to trick me into thinking a portable bathroom is cool. That got me thinking that in the world of PR, we sometimes need to spray some gold on Porta-Potty products. But don’t get all pissy on me yet, let me offer you the following proof points as to what certain products and Porta-Potties have in common:

 

  • They offer a timely solution to a problem
  • There’s a high customer demand
  • In either case, people may have the impression based on their previous experiences that they’re all basically the same thing or worse yet, prepared for them to be crappy until proven otherwise. 

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There you have it. What can be said of Sani-Cans when you squeeze 80,000 people into a park in 93 degree weather for three days can also be said of most products.

 I’ve quickly come to the realization that those who are truly stellar in the PR industry can break out a paintbrush and give these average Porta-Potty products the royal gold treatment with just a stroke. They can go beyond praising any product’s practical use, and up the cool factor to start distinguishing them and the company with a coat of creativity and maybe even a touch of mystery. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Ben Horowitz summarized his similar take on the relationship between s**t and PR in his book The Hard Thing, About Hard Things:

 “Anybody can get reporters to write nice things about a sweet, cuddly baby of a company. Only world-class PR people can deal with gangly, pimple-ridden, teenage companies. World-class PR people can turn around negative stories. World-class PR people can turn chicken shit into chicken salad. Turning chicken shit into chicken salad requires long-term, trusted relationships, deep know-how, and the confidence to make use of both appropriately.”

 Thanks Austin! I promise to remember to always keep it weird and to bring my mud boots next time.

 Melissa 

 

 

Chasing that [long]Tail

October 9, 2014

Where  five years ago, “breaking” news was THE mission for reporters, we’re now starting to see a slight shift in how media treats hard news coming out of today’s emerging tech companies. While getting there first still earns you bonus points, when it comes to reporting on launches or corporate announcements it’s more about crafting a meaty, well researched article than being first to click publish.

Nowadays, audiences can get the same experience of reading a newspaper or magazine by scrolling through Twitter. In fact, for the majority of its users Twitter is their primary source of news. Knowing that they still need to drive clicks and shares of their articles, reporters now are left to compete and differentiate their stories based more heavily on the quality of content they produce. Flipping through some of today’s news outlets – big or small – you have no trouble finding articles with ample use cases, industry research and third party references that not only report on the facts of the announcement, but also provide ‘bigger picture’ analysis.

Our team witnessed this “long tail” trend when taking our client Acorns through their recent launch. Leading up to the release date, we conducted 12 pre-briefings with a mix of outlets. We anticipated most of the articles hitting on the actual release date, but only saw three articles publish once the embargo lifted. Having received verbal confirmation that each reporter had plans to write, we held off panicking and waited patiently for the rest of the articles to hit. In the following days after the announcement, we saw nearly 35 feature articles publish. For the most part, each story included stats, quotes from other industry experts and the reporter’s own take on the news.

Using this experience as an example, we’re adjusting coverage expectations around launches. More than ever, PR agencies need to partner with their clients to provide exclusive/customized content and ample resources reporters can also tap for commentary – this is what will ultimately drive coverage of your client.

The caliber of coverage we achieved for our client went above and beyond even our highest expectations. This proved to be a launch for the coverage hall of fame [that should exist, don’t you think?!].

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Here are a few of our favorite stories:

http://www.wired.com/2014/08/acorn-app/

http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/26/acorns-is-a-micro-investment-app-that-does-all-the-thinking-for-you/

http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/26/6068017/acorns-app-saving-investment

So don’t be surprised if you don’t get 35 high quality pieces of coverage the morning the embargo lifts. If you want to get the good stories – the ones that go beyond the details in the press release and make you pump your fists in the air as you read them; you have to provide the right information, be patient, and expect to chase the long tail.

Bailey and Morgan

The Low Down on Mile High Disruption at Denver Startup Week

September 19, 2014

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We’ve been growing our presence in the fine state of Colorado for over a year now and, with that, came the recent move to Denver. With job demand at an all time high and technology wages in the city rising at some of the fastest rates in the country—Barokas is deep in the trenches of Denver’s rapid tech growth.

 “There’s a lot of rainbows and unicorns bullshit that goes on, and I think we have to temper that with some reality. Most entrepreneurs will fail.”

 While 500 Startups founder, Dave McClure, kicked off the week with the above uplifting reality check concerning the business of startups, the numbers seemed a bit more promising.  According to the Downtown Denver Partnership, there are 373 startups with 3,108 employees in Denver. In 2013, 80 new startups were born, and Denver companies raised almost $200 million in the second quarter of 2014. Startups make up 7.5 percent of businesses in Denver.

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We were honored to host a client panel discussion on “Sifting Through The BS: Advice That Really Matters When You’re In The Trenches Of Building A Business.” On Monday, PivotDesk CEO, David Mandell, Simple Energy CEO, Yoav Lurie, and Rapt Media CEO Erika Trautman, all spoke candidly about the difficulties they’ve faced starting a business and how they have all managed to be successful—against the odds. Responding to questions that ranged from how to quell your spouses fears that failure is imminent to how to seek funding and from whom, it was an office hours advisory session that left a packed house in awe of the honesty and real advice they were able to take away with them. 

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A myriad of discussions this week further inspired the entire city and left us even more proud of what we’re all building here, and readied everyone to continue innovating.

Denver Startup Week has come to an end, after its most successful year yet, however we’ll be here next year and we hope you will too. As Erika Trautman noted about selling her house to start her business, “I was all in. There was no question about whether we’d succeed, because we had to.” Denver is all in too, together.

 Rachel 

Launching a Killer Product in a Deadly Crowded Space

September 17, 2014

A few months ago we were approached by a potential client with a cat for a logo. Needless to say, it was love at first sight 

Back in July we started working with said cat company that was operating in beta mode at the time called Kato.im, which is the first free, full-featured professional chat solution for businesses. In order to get a thorough feel for the product, we decided to move our client communication entirely to the Kato.im platform. To this day our team has never sent an email to the client. Not one time. Our workflow takes place entirely on Kato.Im and Google Docs. Believe me when I say, it’s magical. Don’t’ believe me? Here’s why:

  • Everything happens in real time. Projects, queries, cat memes, the like
  • Our efficiency rate has sky-rocketed. Faster completion of projects means tighter deadlines, which equates to a higher rate of coverage
  • Our relationship with the client is casual and extremely comfortable. No more time wasted on formalities.

 

Our task was to launch the company out of beta which is no easy feat – as is the case with most companies launching out of beta mode. The communication space is cluttered with players, most of which focus solely on emojis and text, voice and video communication. While these features are all well and good, capability such as file sharing, 3rd party platform support, global search capability and side-by-side chat windows are really what’s going to make a difference in a business’s internal communication efficiency.

Kato.im is the only chat solution on the market that offers side-by-side chat capability. Think Facebook chat or Gchat on steroids. We could convey all this via pitch in an email but if an overwhelming inbox is the problem then it totally defeated the purpose. We had to take matters into our own hands and reached out via Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In order to get reporter’s attention and call out the functionality, we created a visual that would show reporters exactly what their chat would look like in Kato.im. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

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We secured coverage in publications such as, but most certainly not limited to, Forbes, TechCrunch and VentureBeat. Just to name a few.

What we came to conclude post-launch that helped result in our success (besides a stellar team of course), was our fluency for the product. Having used this product as the only means to communicate both internally and externally, we were able to articulately speak to every facet and function of the product. Kato.im was able to successfully launch out of Beta mode and now has a higher download rate than ever before. 

The Kato.im and Barokas teams operate entirely over the Kato platform. We’ve been introduced to a different, forward-thinking means of communication that we’re able to represent confidently and seamlessly at any given time. Be looking for us in your favorite tech pubs – we’ll be there.

Lizzy

If you want to be acquired by HP, choose Barokas PR.

September 11, 2014

 

 

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While we can’t make any promises, I got your attention, didn’t I? All joking aside, today we are wishing our friends at Eucalyptus Systems a BIG congratulations as they are acquired by HP. This is the second Barokas PR client acquired by HP – the first was Opsware in 2007.

As any PR person who has been in this position can attest, seeing your client, your baby, acquired by another brings with it a mixed bag of emotions – similar to your child heading off to his/her first day of school or leaving home for college. On one hand, you are so proud. You know that you have done everything you can to help get them to this point (blood, sweat and tears included). On the other hand, you know you will miss them dearly – the camaraderie, the friendships, and yes, even the hours spent burning the midnight oil heading into a big launch.

Over the years, we’ve experienced these feelings time and time again. Our work has resulted in a strong track record of taking emerging tech companies from stealth mode through an acquisition. Some of the companies we’ve worked with in this role include:

  • Opsware acquired by HP in 2007 (AOR from 2001 to 2008)
  • Redback acquired by Ericsson in 2006 (AOR from 2005 to 2011)
  • Clearwell Systems acquired by Symantec in 2011
    (AOR from 2006 to 2011)
  • Hubspan acquired by Liaison in 2012 (AOR from 2010 to current)
  • Scout Analytics acquired by Service Source in 2014
    (AOR from 2013 to current)
  • buuteeq acquired by Priceline (AOR from Jan 2014 to current)
  • Eucalyptus Systems (AOR from 2012 to current)

 

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Continue to follow our blog in the coming months to see who might be the next company added to the list above.

And congrats Eucalyptus – our baby is off to college! :)

Karli

The Suite Life at PAX 2014

September 9, 2014

10 years. 85,000 attendees. 1 client.

Each year, the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) brings together fans from across the country and around world to see that latest innovations from gaming’s biggest names. Held in the Emerald City’s backyard, PAX celebrated it’s 10th anniversay this year with the largest crowd in the event’s history. In testament to the event’s growing popularity, organizers sold out tickets in less than two hours earlier this summer.

While most of the action took place at the Washington State Convention Center, we also staffed an off-site suite at a nearby hotel where Atari showcased several of its upcoming games including RollerCoaster Tycoon World, Alone in the Dark: Illumination, and Haunted House: Cryptic Graves. The event gave us an opportunity to connect with gaming reporters and bloggers across the industry, and further highlight Atari’s comeback story.

The results?

 

31 meetings. 80 pieces of coverage. More than 130 million impressions and counting.

Check out some photos from the event:

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                                                                                     View of the Atari demo suite

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                                Video interview with Atari’s CEO and COO for New Gamer Nation.

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Trying an Oculus for the first time!

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          Screenshots of Atari games including (clockwise): Minimum, Alone in the Dark: Illumination RollerCoaster Tycoon World and Haunted House: Cryptic Graves.

See you next year!

Barokas PR Team Atari

 

When Your News, Isn’t

August 18, 2014

It’s not easy telling people things they don’t want to hear; in fact it sucks. More than once you’ve likely found yourself being the messenger – the one who begs not to be shot. Sometimes it’s easy, like “hey, you have something on the side of your face” while making a wiping motion on your face. Other times it’s the more painful “I don’t think this is working out.” What makes PR folks cringe? Telling a client “this isn’t news.”

For a majority of the world public speaking tops the list of most feared activities, but for PR folks I believe giving a client bad news or telling them something they don’t want to hear is the most dreaded exercise. Unfortunately there is no way around it; the only real choice is whether to tell them now or later. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to be in the position of breaking the news that the client’s “news”, isn’t newsworthy. Doing it doesn’t get easier with age – it’s a drag,  especially when I know what a big deal {insert topic } is to them personally and to their company.

A perfect example of this: a new website. Even though designing and building a website has become faster and less expensive, for most clients it’s a long, sometimes painful process, that takes more time and more money than initially planned. When the new site goes live, there is relief and excitement – internally – an enthusiasm that some clients believe the whole world should share; but the whole world doesn’t care, and that’s okay. What for some feels newsworthy, isn’t always worthy of being covered, but that doesn’t make it less exciting or something that shouldn’t  be shared with company stakeholders including investors, employees, and customers. Another one: an acquisition of a company no one knows, for an unnamed amount. Reporters are writing for eyeballs, and if ACME CO has no brand, you got no story. One more: a minor product update. Good for the business? Yes. Good for customers? Yes. Something reporters/bloggers would care about? Not usually. If a product did A and now it does A + a little bit of B, its not very interesting – as a news story. Again, good for other constituents, not the media.

It’s never easy saying your baby is ugly, especially when the proud parents have spent so much time/money/energy creating said baby (product/service) but occasionally that’s the way it works out. Not all babies will be pretty and not all news is news.

ugly baby

 

Howie

Applying Pokémon Battle Strategy to PR

July 30, 2014

Pokemon World Champion Trophy[1] copy

 

As an agency with numerous clients in the digital marketing, enterprise, and B2B tech industries, it may surprise some clients, friends, and readers of the ‘No BS blog’ to learn that our longest standing client is, in fact, The Pokémon Company International (TPCi).

Serving as Pokémon’s heart and soul and outside of Japan, Bellevue, Wash.-based TPCi manages the brand at the national and global levels. Over the last 10 years, BPR has partnered with Pokémon on its quest to promote and build the company’s Organized Play event series.

Each year, thousands of Pokémon trainers (ages 6-60) from around the country participate in Organized Play events – competing via the Pokémon Trading Card Game or video game.  BPR works with media to promote the events, ranging from local City tournaments to major international events, and showcase the success of Pokémon trainers in their hometowns.

As Pokémon trainers prepare their decks and select their teams for the year’s most elite event, the 2014 Pokémon World Championships – taking place next month in the largest media market in the history of the event, Washington, D.C. – this team is taking some guidance from Pokémon competitors as we master the art of pitching local broadcast.

Here are three lessons in securing local broadcast for your next event, as they relate to Pokémon battle strategy:

1)   Preparation & Strategy

Stack your deck early and get creative to give yourself the best chance of pulling a successful card in battle.                                                            

While nothing can replace the basic who, what, when, where and why of a media alert, you sure can get creative on how you position your event. What makes your email stand out is in the why – what makes the event visually appealing? Who will be on hand for interviews? Is there a ceremony, or certain times that will be visually most exciting? Significant anniversaries, number of attendees, amount of charitable giving, etc. can all be great details to highlight in addition to the visual appeal.

We also recommend initial outreach to media three weeks in advance of the event – get your event on radar of local broadcast early, perhaps you can even land it on the station’s master schedule. Despite some traditional print/online media adages about reaching out to a specific reporter – make sure that your initial outreach includes a producer or director (not an anchor, unless you have a previous relationship with them) as well as contacting the general news tip email address. Someone is always at the other end, even if they don’t respond.

2)    Tenacity

In the heart of battle, no one has ever won a by waiting for the competitor to surrender.

Local broadcast is won and lost on the day of the event. We’re not sure if you’ve read this on the ‘No BS Blog’ before (read: sarcasm), but picking up the phone and calling the news desk is the most important step in securing local broadcast (and perhaps the most effective use of the telephone in the history of PR, ever). We can’t stress this enough. Yes, reaching out to local stations in advance of the event is essential to getting your event on the station’s radar and making sure they have all the necessary details – but things are always fluid in the news room and nothing can replace connecting with someone making the coverage decisions that day.

Oh, and call before 9am. The news team is probably in their planning meeting then, so be sure to catch someone at the dsk before they determine who’s headed where that day. And if no one answers – call back in 5-10 minutes and someone likely will.

3)   Luck

Sometimes, the type of deck you’re spent hours putting together just can’t compete with the deck you’re competitor is playing.

Major local, national, and international events can cause a station (and an entire media market) to switch gears in an instant. Even if a videographer has already been sent out, shot b-roll, and conducted interviews – your segment can get bumped without warning. This is when fostering a relationship with the reporter/videographer that actually attended the event is essential. Remember to ask when they expect the segment to run and grab a business card (and their cell number!) while they’re on site – both will be important for tracking the segment. If a major piece of news comes up, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear back from someone other than your contact at the station about whether or not your segment ran. Ideally you could watch the show live, but like all major events, there’s rarely time for a TV break when hosting media and managing a million moving pieces.

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These are just a few of the lessons we’ve learned while landing broadcast in markets such as Indianapolis, Vancouver, B.C., and how we plan on doing the same in Washington D.C. this summer.                            

– Kersa & Michelle

PS – BPR continues to expand our gaming practice, with includes such current clients as Atari and FlowPlay.

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